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Read below to get an insight into the fascinating and inspiring backgrounds of our guest speakers who will be at BibLit 2022



Anne de Courcy is a biographer and social historian, who has often appeared on television, for which two of her books have been made into documentaries. Many have been best-sellers; among them are The Viceroy’s Daughters, The Fishing Fleet, Snowdon: The Biography, The Husband Hunters and Chanel’s Riviera: Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d’Azur, 1930-44. Anne has worked for the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail, and currently reviews for the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. Much of her new book, Five Love Affairs and a Friendship: Scenes from the Paris Life of Nancy Cunard, was written during lockdown at  her house in nearby Barnsley 



Jane Ridley is a historian, biographer, broadcaster, and Professor of Modern History at the University of Buckingham. She has been in charge of the university's Master of Arts course in Biography since establishing it in 1996. This was the first postgraduate course of its kind. She is the current Chairman of the Biographers’ Club.

            Jane Ridley won the Duff Cooper Prize in 2002 for The Architect and his Wife, a biography of her great-grandfather Edwin Lutyens.  Other books include: The Letters of Edwin Lutyens to his Wife Lady Emily, ed. with Clayre Percy, Fox Hunting: A History, The Letters of Arthur Balfour and Lady Elcho, ed. with Clayre Percy, and The Young Disraeli. She wrote an acclaimed  biography of Bertie: A life of Edward VII, and this was followed by Queen Victoria: Queen, Empress, Matriarch for the Penguin Monarchs series. In 2021 she published a major new biography, George V: Never a Dull Moment. She has appeared in tv documentaries about royal history, and she reviews in publications such as the Spectator.

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The Revd Jonathan Aitken has had one of the most high profile and colourful careers in British public life. His career has spanned the worlds of books, newspapers, television, business, politics, Parliament, prison, theology, charitable service, prison reform and offender rehabilitation.  He was ordained on 30 June 2018 and is now a curate and part time prison chaplain at HMP Pentonville.  He is the author of fifteen books


Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality, 2013; Kazakhstan and Twenty Years of Independence, 2012 ; Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan, 2009; John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, 2007 ; Porridge and Passion, 2005 ;  Pride and Perjury, 2000 ;  Richard M Nixon: A Life, 1993 ; Officially Secret, 1970.

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Andrew Lownie was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was Dunster History Prizeman and President of the Union, before taking his Masters and doctorate at Edinburgh University. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he later returned to Cambridge as a visiting fellow at Churchill College. He is now a Senior Research Fellow in Modern British History at the University of Buckingham and holds a visiting chair at the Ulster Literary  Biography Research Centre.
He has been a bookseller, publisher, journalist , writing for the Times, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal , Spectator and Guardian, and since 1988 has run his own literary agency specialising in history and biography.
He is President of the Biographers Club, sits on the board of Biographers International Organisation and is a Trustee of the Campaign for Freedom of Information.
His previous books includes lives of the writer John Buchan , spy Guy Burgess and the Sunday Times bestseller The Mountbattens.

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Rachel Johnson was born in Westminster in 1965. She has been working for national newspapers since the age of 23, when, after leaving Oxford, she became the first female graduate trainee at The Financial Times. She has worked for the BBC, the Foreign Office, and has written weekly columns for Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, the Sunday Times, and the Evening Standard among others. In September 2009, Rachel became editor of The Lady magazine, featured in a Channel 4 Cutting Edge documentary about the magazine, entitled The Lady and the Revamp. Her novels include Notting Hell, Shire Hell, Winter Games and Fresh Hell. In 2019 Rachel Johnson was the lead candidate for Change UK for the southwest England constituency in the European Parliament election, losing to Ann Widdecombe. Her political memoir Rake's Progress: My Political Midlife Crisis was published in 2020. Rachel Johnson divides her time between her homes in London and Exmoor.

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Jessie will be introducing her new book, The Siege of Loyalty House, which is not published until 19 May, but will be available early especially for BibLit attendees.  

The Civil War was the most traumatic conflict in British history, pitting friends and family members against each other and tearing down the old order. It was fought against a backdrop of climate change, colonialism, pandemics and polarising new media. 

Award-winning historian Jessie Childs reveals the face of the war through one of its most dramatic episodes: the siege of Basing House in Hampshire. Over two years, the men, women and children inside were battered, bombarded, starved and gassed by parliamentarian forces. Their resistance became legendary, but in October 1645, Oliver Cromwell rolled in the heavy guns and the defenders prepared for a last stand. 

Jessie introduces a cast of unforgettable characters and draws on exciting new sources to tell this thrilling tale of war and peace, terror and faith, friendship and betrayal. England’s place in Britain and Europe was transformed and ideas were thrashed out that changed the world. This is the story of who we were, who we are, and how we cope with convulsive change. 

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John Preston us a former Arts Editor of the Evening Standard and the Sunday Telegraph. For ten years, he was the Sunday Telegraph’s television critic and one of its chief feature writers. His novel, The Dig, based on the 1939 archaeological excavation at Sutton Hoo, has been filmed starring Ralph Fiennes. His non-fiction book, A Very English Scandal, was turned into a BAFTA-winning drama series starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw. His latest book is Fall: the mystery of Robert Maxwell. 

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Simon Heffer is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Buckingham. He studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he read English as an undergraduate and later did a PhD in history. He is also a newspaper columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and worked as an executive and columnist in national newspapers for over 30 years before becoming an academic. The first two volumes of his three-volume edition of the Channon diaries appeared in 2021 and the third will be out in 2022. He has written biographies of Thomas Carlyle, Enoch Powell, King Edward VII and Ralph Vaughan Williams, two books on English grammar (Strictly English and Simply English) and has published three volumes of a four-volume history of Britain from 1838 to 1939 - High Minds, the Age of Decadence and Staring at God. The fourth and final volume, Sing As We Go, will be published in 2023.

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